Ranking the 2012 UFA class: Centers

Unrestricted free agency opens on Sunday afternoon with a class of free agents widely considered to be shallow in terms of overall talent. However, there is a small group of elite players at the top of this year’s class that will surely break the bank before any fireworks are lit on July 4.

This is the first of a three-part list ranking the available top 10-15 free agents, by position, based on how popular they will be amongst teams on July 1. Each player will have a short summary beside their names and those I see being a possible target for the Sabres will get a little more attention. Part one will cover the centers.

Olli Jokinen – Age: 33 – 11-12 team: Calgary – 11-12 Cap Hit: $3,000,000

Aside from goaltenders, center is the thinnest position in this year’s class. Jokinen is probably the most offensively gifted center in the class, but is probably looking at limited options. Depending on what teams are looking for, he could be due a little competition. He won’t be back in Calgary, which means the market just got one more skilled addition.

Jason Arnott – Age: 37 – 11-12 team: St. Louis – 11-12 Cap Hit: $2,875,000

Arnott had a respectable season with St. Louis last year, filling an offensive role without being a go-to guy at center. At 37 his intangibles and experience probably offer more than he will over 82 games, but you could still count on 15-20 goals in the right situation. Arnott could be a potential target for Buffalo to bring a bit more experience to a young locker room while filling a role on the third line behind Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis. I could see him being counted on for a solid two-way game if he signs in Buffalo.

Paul Gaustad – Age: 30 – 11-12 team: Buffalo/Nashville – 11-12 Cap Hit: $2,300,000

Told you this was a weak position. Gaustad became a hot commodity in Buffalo because girls think he is cute. Then he started blocking shots and winning faceoffs and other teams took notice. Those hoping he comes back to Buffalo may not want to hold their breath. While he would be a good fit back on the third line, I doubt he takes a hometown discount to return to the Sabres. Gaustad is probably looking at some offers in the 2.85-3 range in terms of a cap hit, that is a little too rich for what he brings to the table. Continue reading

Don’t call it GM for a Day

On the eve of the 2011 NHL Draft, Darcy Regier spurred a deal with the Calgary Flames to acquire Robyn Regehr. Not only was it a trade that no Sabres fan would have seen under the former ownership, it was a trade none were expecting to see.

Regier’s action at last year’s draft set off a month-long string of moves geared towards making the Sabres a Cup contender. Tonight’s draft presents Regier with a very similar opportunity.

This isn’t supposed to be a GM for a Day post. It will certainly be similar to one, but it is more a genesis of the Pegula Puzzle posts I did last year.

If Bobby Ryan is to be acquired, it will likely come via draft day trade.

Considering that Regier has never been one to show his hand with regard to free agents or trades makes the likelihood of acquiring Jordan Staal or Bobby Ryan somewhat unlikely. In fact, there have been plenty who have noted that Regier hasn’t pulled the trigger on any trade that had been widely speculated, rather a trade that few were aware of.  That much was proved last year with the acquisition of Cody Hodgson and Regehr.

I fully expect Regier to make at least one trade this weekend. I also think there is the potential to acquire an impact player. However, I’m not in the position to speculate who he may chase. After all, this isn’t Xbox.

The idea of Bobby Ryan is nothing short of tantalizing. Buffalo may even have the pieces available to get him away from the Ducks. Some reports on Ryan’s availability mention Anaheim’s desire to acquire a number of pieces to help construct their roster. I would venture a guess that any package would require a first round pick and at least one roster player and one prospect. Perhaps two roster players.

If you’re spitballing, a combination of Derek Roy, Jordan Leopold or Andrej Sekera and a pick might be close, but still short on talent. The Sabres would probably need a top prospect to swing the deal. Continue reading